23Feb12 - The Hon. Kristina Keneally

Taken via this Hansard document


Page: 80

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron) [7.09 p.m.]: Tonight a community group meeting organised by the Friends of Erskineville will be held to discuss local concerns about the Ashmore development site. The site is situated in Erskineville and is bounded by Ashmore Street, Mitchell Road, Coulson Street and the East Hills railway line. My office and I have been in regular contact with local residents. While I cannot attend the meeting tonight because Parliament is sitting late this evening, I am speaking in this House to support the Friends of Erskineville.

Many of the issues in relation to the Ashmore development site are the responsibility of the City of Sydney council. However, there are State implications. The Friends of Erskineville tell me they are frustrated that the O'Farrell Government and the Minister for Planning are not listening to or addressing their concerns. In fact, the City of Sydney has at least recognised the concern in the community as represented by the Friends of Erskineville and extended the time for community submissions on the draft development control plan for the Ashmore development site from 22 January to 29 February. I draw to the House's attention the issues that Mike Hatton, President of the Friends of Erskineville, raises on behalf of the group. Mr Hatton said:

      Whilst the proposed plan has been issued by the City of Sydney Council, the real 'elephant in the room' is the state planning department and the present government's announcement of its intent to take developments of this nature into the Premier's Department and place them under a committee in that department. It would appear that contrary to the election campaign statement that part 3A would be rescinded and control of development handed back to councils, the exact opposite is happening.
I remind the House that these are the words of the President of the Friends of Erskineville. Mr Hatton continued:
      Indeed, in response to a letter from the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore last November, Minister Hazzard has acknowledged a new proposal from the City but has not committed to acceptance of the proposal, nor has there been any statement (from the NSW Government) rescinding the original planning department demand for up to 19 storey apartment blocks, or a statement as to why the present proposal far exceeds the original plan drawn up under the South Sydney Council for a lower density development better suited to the area.
The Friends of Erskineville will make a detailed submission on the present draft proposal and tonight's community meeting will assist in the preparation of that submission. However, the group has already identified some of the key issues, which I bring before the House. By doing so, I give the O'Farrell Government the opportunity to take notice and respond to the Friends of Erskineville. The group lists the following as some of its key issues of concern. First, the plan calls for 3,200 or more apartments in what appears to be more than 40 apartment blocks. Secondly, building heights will be up to nine floors if accepted by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, which will create shadowing. Thirdly, it is estimated that the site will accommodate over 6,000 people, which will effectively double the number of Erskineville residents. Fourthly, only 1,950 parking spaces will be provided and parking is already a major issue. Fifthly, the site is contaminated and requires cleaning up, which developers want paid for by increased building heights; and, sixthly, there is no plan for public infrastructure, including transport.

These concerns and the lack of the response from the Minister for Planning to representations by the Friends of Erskineville, as well as representations made by me on behalf of many Erskineville residents, has prompted the group to convene a public meeting tonight at 7.30 p.m. at the Erskineville Town Hall. I will not be surprised if the Minister for Planning and the Government seek to blame all issues relating to this site on the former Labor Government—in fact, I predict that is what will happen. I say to the O'Farrell Government that it has been in power now for almost a full year and this matter has sat on the desk of the Minister with barely a response. The Minister has written to the Lord Mayor and has tried to sidestep the issue as if it has nothing to do with him. His failure to act is in fact an action: It is an endorsement of the current plan.

The residents of Erskineville are not fools and they will not be taken for mugs. They know that the O'Farrell Government is in office; now it has the decision-making power and it has decided to date to disregard the community's concerns. The residents of Erskineville know and remember what the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure and the Premier promised before the election—a return of planning powers to local communities. The Friends of Erskineville know this is not happening. Again, I remind the House of the President of the Friends of Erskineville's words. He said:
      The real 'elephant in the room' is the State Planning Department and the present Government. It would appear that contrary to election campaign statements, control of development (would be) handed back to councils, the exact opposite is happening.
Tonight I call on the O'Farrell Government to listen to what the locals are saying. Locals know their local area; take note of their issues. Answer the City of Sydney council and the residents who call for a new plan. Tell the people of Erskineville honestly whether they really will see development controls handed back to local councils as the O'Farrell Government promised or if those were just hollow words, signifying nothing.